FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2013
CONTACT: Cynthia Gordy, 202-341-0555, email@example.com
CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS LAUNCH â€śMOBILE JUSTICE TOURâ€ť TO BRING ADVOCACY, AWARENESS AND ASSISTANCE ON VOTING RIGHTS RESTORATION, SUCCESSFUL PRISONER RE-ENTRY ACROSS VIRGINIA
15-City Tour to Highlight Virginia Policies that Create Barriers for Returning Citizens
(Washington) â€“ A coalition of civil rights groups are partnering for a 15-city tour of Virginia to raise awareness on and provide direct services for justice issues that affect people with criminal records. Kicking off on August 6, the Mobile Justice Tour will focus on three key issues: civil rights restoration for citizens with felony convictions, removing questions about an applicantâ€™s criminal background from initial employment forms, and programs for successful prisoner re-entry.
Host organizations for the Mobile Justice Tour include Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged (RIHD); Bridging the Gap in Virginia; Good Seed, Good Ground; Virginia Organizing; and Advancement Project.
â€śWhile Virginia has made progress in recent years and months on civil rights restoration and fair hiring practices, many barriers remain across the state for people with criminal backgrounds,â€ť said RIHD Executive Director and tour moderator Lillie Branch-Kennedy. â€śOur tour will highlight the roadblocks that persist for people who have paid their debts to society, as well as illuminate solutions that have been proven to help reintegrate individuals back into our communities. Participating experts will also connect impacted individuals with direct services and resources to help assist in their re-entry, helping to create more productive citizens and fewer people returning to prison.â€ť
At each stop of the tour, re-entry policy experts will discuss:
â€˘ Restoration of Rights: While Gov. McDonnellâ€™s plan to simplify the rights restoration process for those with non-violent convictions is a historic change, many impacted citizens may be shut out of the process. Central to this concern is the Governorâ€™s broad definition of â€śviolentâ€ť felonies â€“ including almost all drug convictions, such as drug possession with intent to distribute. The MJT will elaborate on the planâ€™s details, and assist those who wish to restore their rights.
â€˘ â€śBan the Boxâ€ť Employment Application Reform: Fair hiring policies have been passed by the city governments of Newport News, Richmond, Norfolk, and Portsmouth, which remove the question about an individualâ€™s criminal history from the initial employment application. The MJT will advocate for other Virginia governments and private businesses to â€śBan the Boxâ€ť and reduce barriers that prevent our community members from finding work.
â€˘ Successful Prisoner Re-Entry: During the 2014 Virginia General Assembly session, policy advocates will introduce common-sense legislation that has been shown to reduce recidivism. Proposed solutions include prison-based programs such as 1) Prisoner literacy and educational, therapeutic, and vocational rehabilitation, 2) Volunteer Tax Credits for professional and/or licensed persons providing educational and other services to incarcerated people in Virginia jails and prisons, and 3) Temporary Public Assistance for up to nine months to newly released individuals. The MJT will detail, and invite others to join, these citizen lobbying efforts.
Designed to reach every corner of Virginia, tour stops include:
â€˘ August 6: Newport News, Hampton
â€˘ August 10: Roanoke, Lynchburg
â€˘ August 13: Harrisonburg, Charlottesville
â€˘ August 17: Danville
â€˘ August 20: Norfolk
â€˘ August 24: Suffolk
â€˘ August 27: Alexandria, Fredericksburg
â€˘ September 7: Lawrenceville
â€˘ September 10: Petersburg
â€˘ September 17: Richmond
â€˘ October: Southwest Virginia Dates To Be Announced
Visit www.restorationcampaign.org, and follow @va_mjt on Twitter, for an updated tour schedule and latest news. # #